The good news is I'm so far behind with this review, that the second book in the series is out now. Which means you've got a new series to follow on your hands!
As the blurb puts it: "Bill Murdoch's doing just fine, thanks for not asking. He's dealing drugs for a professional crime syndicate in Sydney and saving for a house by the sea."
Despite a spot of pressure from the syndicate behind that to replace his recently murdered boss, he's got bigger problems on his hands as the Australian Tax Office looms on the horizon wanting to know where this cash income of his is coming from. And we all know, when other authorities can't get you, the Tax Department often will. But Murdoch could not possibly have expected the little "white lie" about him being a private detective was uttered in front of a bad choice of Tax Inspectors, as Hannah Simms has been looking for just such a thing. Her niece has gone missing and she wants answers. Whatever Murdoch's initial regret at this little blunder, a bit of gentle poking about in a small coastal town, with accommodation etc thrown in, sounds like an ideal "hide out" from syndicate pressures.
Except that Murdoch finds himself actually looking for a missing girl, dealing with an erratic housemate (and it turns out ex-husband of Ms Simms) and basically trying to keep a low profile in a very small town.
A lot of the success of HEADLAND is down to the character of Bill Murdoch. Dry as a chip, determined, understandably daft at times, he's a survivor first and foremost, but a decent bloke all the same. There's nuance and substance to everyone in this book - it's not just noir styled, dry lone wolf territory. His sidekick by dint of proximity, Davy, unexpected housemate, surfer, real-estate agent, once was rock star, is equally a great character - about as different from Murdoch as you can get. Character is a strong point in HEADLAND, but not to the detriment of other aspects.
The plot is well constructed, with the search for a missing girl starting out as a convenient excuse for hiding away, and rapidly becoming a real, serious search. There's plenty of twists and turns, a bit of age appropriate action, some great encounters in the big smoke and the small local town, and overall both aspects - character and plot - combine well. There's sufficient motivation for much of what Murdoch does, doesn't do, finds and flushes out to have everything ultimately make sense, even if you don't see some of it coming.
The commencement of a new series is always a tricky undertaking for an author, and sometimes for the reader, and HEADLAND has a few of those expected issues. It does take a while for things to get moving, and it might take you a little while to get your head around aspects of Bill Murdoch's background and character overall. But stick with it, as this is an extremely promising Australian thriller, PI noir debut and CLASS ACT is now out there now, ready for you to read next.